This Thing Called Courage

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Mountain Comes to Mohammed; Watch Bill Moyers Tomorrow Night-- Must See TV

AFTER A WEEK OF LOOKING FOR THE AMERICAN WOODOCOCK in Happy Land (The Middlesex Fells) I finally found him on Sunday night. I did not go back to Greenwood Park, where I had been looking last week, but to another location way across the Fells in a tract known as the Lawrence Woods, named after the benefacftor who donated this large southern chunk of Happy Land to the Fells back in the 1930's. Specifically it's known as the '90mm Site,' as the government placed anti-aircraft guns there during World War II. Nature, ever wiser, has replaced those guns with woodcocks and robins, bats and butterflies. The site is a meadow, though it is reverting to woods; the Friends of the Middlsex Fells have had a few volunteer days up there to clear the brush and help keep the meadow a meadow, as many species depend upon this kind of environment-- the American Woodcock among them.

My friend Robbie came with me Sunday night. We got there about 7:30 just as the sun was going down. The quarter moon was brightening and Venus was just dimly discernable between the bare branches of the trees. We were a little unsure as to where exactly to go-- unlike Greenwood Park, which is one big meadow, this place is much wilder (even though it borders South Border Road on one side) and there are in fact several swaths of open meadow, interrupted by thick tangles and copses of bushes and trees. We finally choose to split the difference and sit on a patch of old tar road halfway between two of the larger open spaces.

The minutes passed by. A man came by with an unleashed dog (a no-no for Woodcocks and against Fells regulations, but people do it anyway) and then passed on. The night grew darker. And then Robbie heard it (I had played some wav files at my house of the peet sound so he would know what to listen for). I did not hear it, but he was sure he did. It was off to the east, in a third little meadow that we hadn't noticed before, past the ruined foundations of an old barracks or something. After a bit we saw the woodcock streak upwards through the twilight, and then we made our move, running closer to where his 'singing ground' was. (You can get away with that without disturbing him while he's up in the air.) It was then that I heard it. Peet peet peet peet. We moved again, and then again a third time, and came quite close to him, so close that I could even hear his amazing whistle/flutter as he came back down to earth. I suppose he made about 7-9 trips up to the sky during the next half an hour. By 8:30, it seemed he had finished, and we left, but not before seeing a ton of small bats fluttering around (one zoomed about 12 inches past my face and I could feel the wind-flutter of him) and also a shooting star. It was so wonderful to finally see this amazing native bird and his breathtaking, spectacular spring display, not in an Audubon Sanctuary, not in a National Wildlife Refuge, but right in my own backyard as it were. It just convinces me that despite all the problems that besiege the world these days, some things are still right, some things are still working, some things are still beautiful and full of wonder-- and worth protecting. I also went out last night by myself, and saw/listened to him again. I sure hope there are some female woodcock up there, to keep the miracle going. Generally woodcock will return to the same field in which they were born. The female scratches out a nest on the ground (hence the danger when dogs run loose) and raises the young herself. The hatchlings (pic above) are born precocial, which means with feathers and bill, and can fly 24 days after hatching out.

Must See TV

This is taken from and his Live from Turkey Hollow blog-- I had heard about this a few weeks ago from young Scotty, and thanks David for the reminder:

Tomorrow night, Wednesday night on PBS, we get to see the return of Bill Moyers with a documentary entitled, Buying the War: How did the mainstream press get it wrong? Those who have seen a preview say it will change how we look at television news from now on. This documentary examines how the press played an important role in leading us into the Iraq War by blindly accepting the Bush Administration’s distortions and deceptions.

David Swanson, a guest columnist for, previewed the program and gives it rave reviews. Listen to what he has to say and then be sure to tune in for this important show:
“But what comes out of watching this show is a powerful realization that no investigation is needed by Congress, just as no hidden information was needed for the media to get the story right in the first place. The claims that the White House made were not honest mistakes. But neither were they deceptions. They were transparent and laughably absurd falsehoods. And they were high crimes and misdemeanors.”
Swanson continues:
“Moyers also hits Tim Russert with a couple of tough questions. Russert expressed regret for not having included any skeptical voices by saying he wished his phone had rung. So Moyers begins the next segment by saying, "Bob Simon didn't wait for the phone to ring," and describing Simon's reporting. Simon says he knew the claims about aluminum tubes were false because "60 Minutes" called up some scientists and researchers and asked them. Howard Kurtz of The Washington Post says that skeptical stories did not get placed on the front page because they were not "definitive."
Moyers shows brief segments of an "Oprah" show in which she has on only pro-war guests and silences a caller who questions some of the White House claims. Just in time for the eternal election season, Moyers includes clips of Hillary Clinton and John Kerry backing the war on the basis of Bush and Cheney's lies. But we also see clips of Robert Byrd and Ted Kennedy getting it right.
The Washington Post editorialized in favor of the war 27 times, and published in 2002 about 1,000 articles and columns on the war. But the Post gave a huge anti-war march a total of 36 words. "What got even less ink," Moyers says, "was the release of the National Intelligence Estimate." Even the misleading partial version that the media received failed to fool a careful eye.
Landay recalls: "It said that the majority of analysts believed that those tubes were for the nuclear weapons program. It turns out though, that the majority of intelligence analysts had no background in nuclear weapons." Was Landay the only one capable of noticing this detail?”
Bill Moyer’s Buying the War: How did the media get it wrong? airs on Wednesday, April 25 at 9:00 pm on your local PBS station.


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